A Reggae Song That Explains The 2013 Stock Market

This amazing data visualization sonifies the rise of the S&P 500 over 2013. It’s a happy tune, indeed.

We've all been told that 2013 brought us a stronger economy, but if you aren’t an economist or a serious investor, it’s likely your eyes glaze over at things like S&P 500 gains. You may have missed, then, that the 500 largest publicly traded companies have had a banner year, starting at 1462 points on Jan 2, 2012, and reaching 1840 as of December 30th.

Still bored by all the money talk? Okay, here’s a better way to process that information: CNNMoney’s Market Music, by Edlundart’s Bård Edlund (the same guy behind Dow Piano), is the 2013 stock market translated into a catchy reggae beat.

“The main thing to listen for is the melody line on top, played by a synth that starts out as a bass instrument and ends up as bright, clear, digital tones,” Bård Edlund explains to Co.Design. “That melody line reflects the closing numbers for each day, and you can hear gaps in the melody on weekends and holidays, helping to create variation in the melodic structure.”

Aside from a few blips here and there, that core melody line goes up and up and up--so high that, as Edlund said, he was forced to switch its instrumentation from a bass to a synth in order to accurately portray the vast range of change. By November, what started as a lulling baseline climbs so high that you may want to cover your ears--until you remember that ear-ringing chime is the sound of money.

Yes, a critic might say the song gets a little shrill, but those high pitches add a lot of meaning to what might otherwise be meaningless stock figures. What’s a 400 point gain to the S&P 500 mean? Is that a lot or a little? That ear-piercing melody intrinsically tells you that, yes, it’s a lot.

That said, while there’s certainly a purpose behind Edlund’s score, he’s not sold that his own creation is “particularly useful.” Instead, he sees Market Music as a “fun data art project,” less about depicting hard data with 100% clarity than luring the public to explore charts through the chillaxing wave of a reggae beat.

“Both seeing and hearing it rise and rise and rise in this drawn out way, it's almost a meditative way of being inside the chart,” Edlund writes. “I find with some of these audio projects that I do, that bordering on boredom is kind of good--the fact that it goes on for a while actually provides some immersion, if you let it.”

Indeed, as punk rock or death metal, Market Music just wouldn’t be the same. There is something about that wave of casual offbeats that signals there's no rush--an outlook that's known well to any tourist who’s experienced “island time”--and it beckons you to keep listening, with an infectious melody that sticks with you even after you’ve left your computer and forgotten about the visualization.

“I have listened to this thing a lot of times during its creation, and as strange as it may sound, I go around humming certain sequences by now (I think August is my favorite "verse"),” Edlund writes. “So while it's hardly catchy on the level of a Rihanna song, it *is* possible to bop your head to it…”

Listen to it here.

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